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10 Ways We Are Incorporating Our Daughters' Ethiopian Culture Into Our Everyday Lives

One thing that is very important to us a transcultural, transracial, adoptive family is doing our best to maintain a sense of Ethiopian culture for our daughters. We cannot give back everything they lost in their adoptions, but we can do our best to give them everything we possibly can, and making their home culture a part of our daily lives is a portion of how we do that. I will admit that we do not do this perfectly or even admirably just yet, but we are trying to do better and better as time goes by. The adjustments to family life with a new family member are not small ones, and so we have started small and are building our traditions over time. So much of what we do is simple, but makes a huge difference, particularly for Zinashi, who remembers life in Ethiopia. Every adoptive family does things a little differently in regard to honoring culture; this is our list. It’s certainly not exhaustive, but it’s a place to start.


  • Food 1 of 10
    Food
    Of all the things we do, eating Ethiopian food is probably the most important. There's just something about home food that makes people feel better, and injera is Zinashi's home food. I can cook some dishes, but we find that a weekly meal at our regular Ethiopian restaurant is the best choice for our family. Finding a regular place to eat injera was one of our top priorities when we were settling in after our cross country move this year.
  • Music 2 of 10
    Music
    We have a variety of both traditional and pop Ethiopian music in our playlists, and we play Ethiopian music on a regular basis.

    Purchase our favorite, Gigi's One Ethiopia, here.
  • Art 3 of 10
    Art
    When we were in Ethiopia for Zinashi's adoption, we sought out art that we could hang in our home. We chose both big pieces and small, and we will add to our collection each time we go to Ethiopia.
  • Seeing Other Ethiopians Regularly 4 of 10
    Seeing Other Ethiopians Regularly
    One of the added benefits of eating our weekly injera meal at an Ethiopian restaurant is that we are able to make friends there. We also chose a church where there are Ethiopians and Eritreans in attendance. This way, Zinashi and Elvie will get to see and interact with other Ethiopians twice a week.
  • Incorporating Ethiopian Elements Into Our Faith Practice 5 of 10
    Incorporating Ethiopian Elements Into Our Faith Practice
    We are Orthodox Christians, and the majority of Ethiopians are also Orthodox. For the religious elements in our home, we have chosen mostly Ethiopian items.
  • Celebrating Ethiopian Holidays 6 of 10
    Celebrating Ethiopian Holidays
    When we flew into Ethiopia the first time, bonfires dotted the city, and smoke hung thick in the air. It was the eve of Meskel Festival, and the tradition is to burn a bonfire and have a party. We celebrate this yearly as we remember our first night in Ethiopia and meeting Zinashi the next day. Our bonfire isn't very authentic just yet, but we are learning more each year about how to celebrate. The same is true of the other holidays we celebrate, including Enkutatash (Ethiopian New Year) and Genna (Ethiopian Christmas). As the years go by, we hope to celebrate those three holidays better and add more to our celebratory repertoire.
  • Traditional Clothing 7 of 10
    Traditional Clothing
    We have purchased many traditional Ethiopian dresses for both girls to wear as the years go by; the one pictured here is the very first one I purchased for Zinashi. Jarod and I also have traditional Ethiopian clothing to wear for holiday celebrations and special days that we celebrate as a family.
  • Books and Toys 8 of 10
    Books and Toys
    We own some books and check out plenty at the library as well. I am trying to stock our Ethiopian library gradually, choosing the best books to give to my daughters on holidays. We also have Ethiopian toys, such as a child's coffee ceremony set and cloth balls for each girl featuring the Amharic alphabet.

    Purchase the book pictured on Amazon.
  • Using Amharic Words in Regular Conversation 9 of 10
    Using Amharic Words in Regular Conversation
    I'll be the first to admit that our Amharic is rusty, and our words are few. This is something I would like to get way better at doing. We currently use select Amharic nouns and the phrases good job (Gobez!) and thank you (Amisehganallo!). We have notes on a lot more words and phrases, which we used with Zinashi when we first adopted her, but as her preference for English grew, our efforts to keep Amharic part of daily language did not. It is our goal to learn more conversational Amharic as a family.
  • Traveling to Ethiopia on a Regular Basis 10 of 10
    Traveling to Ethiopia on a Regular Basis
    Unless something unforeseen comes up, we are committed to visiting Ethiopia every two years. We wish we could go more often, but this at least will keep Ethiopia somewhat fresh in our daughters hearts and minds.

Read more of our family story on Finding Magnolia
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More on Babble:
Why I Don’t Believe My Daughters’ Adoptions Were “Meant to Be”
Keeping Our Daughters Connected to Their Ethiopian Families
My Mantra For Surviving the Plunge Into Our New Normal

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